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2015/12/9

ROVs 3,000 FEET UNDER THE SEA



This series is brought to you in part by Aerobotika - UAV training and Consulting

Q&A
Water Today: I have with me on the phone Jim Garrington, President of Shark Marine. Can you tell our viewers a little bit about what you do on an everyday basis?

Garrington: We are a manufacturer of equipment, we have been doing this now for about 30 years. We do a lot of different things from underwater camera systems to remotely operated vehicles, to projects for military and even lately, some stuff for the space program.

Water Today: First off let's cover under the water. If someone wants to have a look under the water, would they normally use this for resource development; Say oil rigs, this type of thing? Can you tell me a little bit about your market?

Garrington: There are a lot of different applications, basically all the way from commercial diving to science, to oil and gas, to military. It all depends on what application the customer wants.

Water Today: When you use these; I guess theyíre called remote unmanned devices or what's the catch phrase?

Garrington: The terms for the vehicles would be ROV, Remotely Operated Vehicles, and we do actually have one beyond which is the AUV, or Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.

Water Today: Can you give me a short description of that ?

Garrington: To give you an idea of the difference, The ROV is a remote vehicle which you operate from the surface; you'll be flying it under the water but you are sitting in comfort above the water. The advantage is that wherever it is too deep or too dangerous for a diver, you can put an ROV in and be able to do a lot of the work that a diver would do -definitely in the observation and recovery aspects - without actually having to be there. So you can stay an awful lot longer in the water. And if there is a danger element, you're keeping the human being out of the danger element. In the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), the difference is we actually give the vehicle some smarts, by pre-programming it. And then it literally goes in and does the operation by itself.

Water Today: Where would someone use something like that?

Garrington: Typically the AUV would be used to do a survey of an area, a metric or science scan survey of an area, you could send it in, and it would complete the survey and then come back. We have some that we're using for the military, where somebody can fly it in, get off f, and send it back home again. Or we can actually send it in to pick people up.

Water Today: With Canada so interested in the Franklin expedition ships that were found up North, is this the type of vehicle that you would use that for?

Garrington: You definitely could, especially depending on the depth of the ship wrecks. Often they are used on ship wrecks that are deeper. Because divers have a very short time to spend in deeper depths.

Water Today: How long does an average diver go down for?

Garrington: It's all relative to the depths; you can dive down at 30 feet of water for hours if you have enough air. A tank might last you an hour to an hour and a half. When you get into say 100 feet and more, your diver will only be able to spend 10 minutes on the bottom without going into what's called de-compression. And that means a diver has to spend time ascending, and stop at given times for the nitrogen bubbles to get out of his blood stream.

Water Today: Is that what people refer to as the bends?

Garrington: Actually, you get the bends if you donít do that.

Water Today: Can anybody do this or is there an enormous amount of training?

Garrington: You're kind of looking at both. Some people pick it up more easily than others; itís not that hard to do really. We've made the equipment so easy to operate that a lot of it can be done autonomously or semi-autonomously. Nowadays, in the software we can say Ďtake me to this targetí and it'll take you there. That's why operations are much easier than they used to be. But the more time you spend doing it, the better you get at it.

Water Today: I know from the interviews I did about UAVs, the flying drones, that there was a fair amount of Transport Canada involved. Is there any regulations involved in your line of work?

Garrington: Ah no, not nearly as much, whereas with the drones you're worried about aircraft and the man up above, we really don't have that much happening down below to worry about. Not at this point anyway.

Water Today: How deep have you taken your units? What's the deepest you can go and can you tell me a little bit about how that kind of thing works?

Garrington: Well, you've probably seen some of the stuff on the deepest points of the ocean which are at about 35,800 feet or equivalent meters. But a lot of what we do is in the range of 2,000 and 3,000 feet, for the most part at 1,000 feet and above. So we don't go extremely deep, although to some people that might be considered really deep.

Water Today: That's awfully deep to me. Can you tell me, if someone wants to buy a unit, say to look around with video technology, or sonar technology, what is one of these units worth with the latest greatest gear on it?

Garrington: Depending on models and depending on what you put on them it can be anywhere from $50,000 to $250 ,000.

Water Today: Okay, I guess if you're looking to do some serious research that's not out of the question, but do you get a lot scientists?

Garrington: We do. We do a lot with the scientific world.

Water Today: And can you tell me what they are looking for? Are they looking for the bottom or are they looking for boundaries or are they looking for a certain type of a plankton?

Garrington: Typically in most shallower waters, the scientists can dive, they can collect data, they can do observation. As soon as you start digging in deeper - 200, 300, 400, 500 feet of water, it's not practical to do it with divers, so then all of a sudden you really have to do it with ROVs. And they can stay down there for really long periods of time. So anywhere beyond the standard diving depth, it becomes pretty much mandatory that you go with some kind of a vehicle and ours is probably the biggest one. Also, a lot more is known about shallow water, what really isn't known is the deeper sections.

Water Today: Are you saying that what is reachable by humans has already been gotten to and figured out, and now people are looking for the deeper equation?

Garrington: Yes. but I don't know if I'd say that the rest has been figured out because constant monitoring is still being done, at least as far as the effects of different invasive species, or you know, chemicals or over-fishing are concerned. It's a constant study of all of the oceans.

Water Today: Can you give me perhaps the most interesting challenge that you've overcome with some of your fascinating equipment?

Garrington: That's a hard one, I mean we've, done a lot of different things over the years. I think the biggest challenges are where it's been impossible to get someone in or to get the data; whether itís due to high current flows or greater depths or whether it's exploring shipwrecks that haven't been seen for hundreds of years. It's hard to say which one is you know, exciting or important because they're all exciting to us.

Water Today: When you talk about shipwrecks, can you give me any example of one shipwreck that you were involved with finding or exploring?

Garrington: There's been a few different ones. One that comes to mind is a wreck we found in about 91, just off the shore from where our offices are, more or less. And although it doesn't have the great excitement of some of the warships or some of the other ones like that, it's a very unique craft because it was the only one of what would have been a transitional vessel between the sailing schooners and the canallers wich were done specifically for use in Welland Canal. And at this point, it's one of the only ones we know that exists. So archaeologically, it may be more significant but from a popularity point of view, everyone likes the ones with the guns on the back of them.

Water Today: When you find yourself chatting with someone and they find out what you do, do images of Matthew McConaughey exploits come to mind, or sort of what do you tell people what it's really like, compared to say the movies type thing.

Garrington: I have to say it's a very fascinating industry to be in. I've been doing this myself for quite a few years and we've had the business now for 31 years, but I still love doing it and it's still exciting.

Water Today: It does sound really interesting. Can you tell me just before you go, are there instances where you work with divers themselves?

Garrington: Very much so.

Water Today: And when a diver comes to you, they have issues, they say," Look, it's too deep," or "I can't do it, I have to be down too long," so do they work with your units themselves or do you show up and do it?

Garrington: We have been known to do both. I think the biggest thing is we like solving problems. So if it's somebody, it might a diver or it may be anyone else, people come to us with a problem and say you know, "this is the situation," as you say, "it's too deep, or we need to do something and this is dangerous," or "we're trying to do something totally different." We love the challenge of being able to come up with a solution to those problems.

Water Today: As I ask most of the divers I talk to, do you get the, "have you been to Titanic?" question?

Garrington: No. But I do know people who have been down to the Titanic so I guess that's as close a I would get.

Water Today: Its' at 12,000 meters though I think?

Garrington: A lot further than I normally would go, yes.

Water Today: Do you go East Coast, or West Coast, anywhere people want? Or do you find that there's more than enough to do in your end of the world?

Garrington: As a manufacturer of the equipment, we don't do as much service ourselves as we used to do but we sell worldwide.

Water Today: And where does your talent base come from? Students from St. Catherine's, Waterloo, that type of thing or do you find there are places that seem to generate more divers, more operators than anywhere else?

Garrington: Well most of our staff are very talented. We have mostly engineers, technologists, technicians. We have a very, a very capable staff, and it's one of the things I'm probably the most proud of. It's really hard to get good people together but we've managed to get some really excellent people. So we've got some great minds. They come from a lot of different areas, from around. We find that no matter who we get in, we try to get people who have that ability, that thinking capability and we'll train them from there. There's always a lot of training because it is a unique industry.

Water Today: If I'm speaking to a university student or a college student, is there any one thing that they really ought to do more of to qualify for a business industry such as yours?

Garrington: Well we have software engineers, electronics engineers, mechanical engineers, and then we have technicians, electronics technicians, we have machinists. We actually employ quite a wide range. In the design aspects, or in the software, I think it's mostly mechatronics or software engineering or mechanical engineering.

Water Today: Well you've seen things change from guys in the big iron diving suits on up to what you do today, it must seem quite incredible.

Garrington: It has changed quite a bit, but then again, I've been diving for 40 years, so....I've seen a lot of changes in my time.



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